One is on a hunger strike. Another claims to be a political prisoner. A third was described by supporters as a survivor of MIQ.
As a growing number of people go through managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ), some are using the experience to supply conspiracy theories online, satisfying extreme and sometimes false claims about the process.
The two current occupants of isolated devices administered in Christchurch have pulled an online chase for their refusal to take the Covid-19 tests, which spread offline Thursday with a protest outside the Commodore Hotel in Christchurch.
About two dozen protesters were there, some of whom were carrying signs alleging human rights abuses were taking place inside the four-star hotel.
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They were supporting a resident who refused to take a PCR test, the method used to determine if someone has Covid-19. The woman said she would go on a hunger strike until she was released. She has been in the hotel for 19 days.
By law, those who refuse to take the PCR test which is administered through a nasal tampon can be held for a maximum of 28 days. Of the 130,000 people who have passed MIQ facilities, only a handful have consistently refused to be tested.
In videos posted online, the woman claimed to be a sovereign citizen, who was refusing to take a PCR test for concerns about the safety and effectiveness of the test.
The PCR test is considered the gold standard for detecting many viruses, and is very accurate in detecting Covid-19 in ideal conditions. They are preferred over saliva tests in community testing because they are more sensitive. The nasopharyngeal swabs used are safe and have long been used to test for other viral infections such as the flu and whooping cough. they cause damage only in extremely rare cases.
The woman, who had previous ties to the New Zealand Public Party led by conspiracy theories, said in a statement that she was being held against her will. A relative protesting outside the hotel on Thursday said they were concerned about the women’s health but backed her protest.
I’m worried about him, absolutely.
Another MIQ resident at the nearby Sudima Hotel is refusing to take a PCR test and describes himself as a political prisoner.
During his 20 days at the institution, he has repeatedly disseminated misinformation about Covid-19 on social media. His wife, who has proven negative about Covid-19, also extended her stay.
He did not start a hunger strike and appreciated the food at the hotel.
The protesters together have filed a letter of habeas corpus in the Supreme Court, claiming they are being detained illegally.
Their claims have been inserted into a reservoir of obscure and sometimes false theories that have flourished in some corners of the internet.
While many returning New Zealanders see managed isolation as a necessary concern, a small number have come to combine the experience with crimes against humanity.
Some international figures have made false claims about the MIQ process. Among them are Alex Berenson, a former New York Times journalist who erroneously described it as indefinite prison, and Fox News host Laura Ingham, who described them as quarantine camps before mocking the New Zealand accent.
Within New Zealand, an increasingly popular theory claims that the objects violate the Nuremberg Code, a set of research ethics designed in response to medical experiments undertaken by the Nazi regime during the Holocaust. Some take the theory further and say that those responsible for the Covid-19 response will be prosecuted in a modern version of the Nuremberg trials.
The Nuremberg Code has no legal basis in New Zealand and applies to human experiments, not to authorized medical tests.
On Thursdays in peaceful protest, Billy Te Kahika, former political candidate, pointed a megaphone at the MIQ facility, falsely claiming that those working there risked prosecution.
There are hundreds and hundreds of people online now watching this protest, all supporting you, he said, addressing the woman who went on hunger strike in MIQ.
Fighting Conspiracy Theories (FACT), a group that opposes misinformation, handed a thank-you card to MIQ staff at the hotel ahead of the protest.
Spokeswoman Jacinta OReilly said the group wanted to show their support for those who worked there.
We would like them to know that there are a lot of people who feel quite different and think the government is doing a great job and want to see New Zealand stand without Covid, she said.
I’m pretty sure 99 percent of people have heard what they want [conspiracy theorists] I must say that it may take a few minutes to realize that it is very bunkum.
Following the protest, Te Kahika and his supporters left The Birdwood Café in Beckenham.
Tiamara Williams, the former New Zealand Public Party deputy leader who was traveling with Te Kahika on Thursday went on to compare leaving the café for returning to South Africa’s Apartheid.
They instead held a meeting at The Cup café in Kashmir, where Te Kahika gave a Powerpoint presentation about communism in New Zealand.
Taxpayers are likely to pay the bill for the extra days suffered by those who refuse to do a PCR test, at a cost of thousands of dollars per person.
A MIQ spokeswoman said the woman on hunger strike at the Commodore Hotel will continue to deliver all meals and her well-being will be closely monitored by health staff.
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